Use these links to return to the page you got here from or to investigate other issues related to this topic. If the Civil Rights Movement is new to you, you can visit our dictionary page from any page in the entire web site by clicking here.
The Underground Railroad helped millions of slaves escape to freedom. People who worked for the Underground Railroad felt that they had to set slaves free because it was wrong to make people work for no pay. Many also thought that people should all be treated equally, even if they had different colored skin. They helped slaves escape to freedom in the north by hiding them and moving them in wagons, on horse, and on foot. Abolitionists also helped slaves escape by giving them shelter and food along the way.
As early as 1786 people had started to protest against slavery. One such group was the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Some of its members included George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, and John Brown. Brown was hanged for seizing the weapons arsenal at Harperís Ferry, Virginia, in the hope of starting a slave uprising. He fought the Army and hoped slaves would join him to fight for their freedom. While many abolitionists fought to end slavery in the U.S., many also worked on the Underground Railroad to rescue a few slaves at a time and help them win their freedom.
Fugitive Slave Bill Angers Free States
The Fugitive Slave Bill of 1850 (part of the Compromise of 1850) was very important in the life of the Underground Railroad. It made it illegal to keep freed slaves in the northern United States. This hurt the Underground Railroad because now they had to get the slaves all the way to Canada instead of just making it to Pennsylvania or Michigan. This also made it much harder on the conductors because they had to hide the slaves for a much longer time. This was much better for the south because the north now had to return any newfound slaves back to their rightful owners. A lot of people in the north disagreed with this and printed posters of warning - "CAUTION COLORED PEOPLE OF BOSTON!" The posters warned the freed slaves to stay off the streets and hide indoors.
The Underground Railroad had a lot of code names so no one knew what they were saying. They didnít want people to know what they were saying because someone might turn them in for stealing property. The slaves were property of the slave owners and they were stealing them. One code word was "lines." The lines were the routes outlining where the people could go to escape to freedom. The slaves were the passengers or cargo and were called "freight" or "packages." The places where the "packages" were delivered were called "stations." They were called stations because the stops on a real train are also called stations. Finally, the people helping to guide the slaves along the railroad were called "conductors." Harriet Tubman was the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad.
Working on the Railroad
After the compromise, the city of Rochester, New York was very important in getting slaves through the northern United States and into Canada. This was clearly stated in the book A Path to Freedom in 1866. Rochester was honored for its participation in and support of the Underground Railroad. This sparked new hope in the conductors. Now slaves could get through to Canada without being caught.
Quakers and ex-slaves were some of the people who helped out along the way. Along with Harriet Tubman, many other ex-slaves were conductors on the Underground Railroad. They knew what it was like to be a slave and wanted to keep others safe as they ran away. Quakers were white people who didn't think that there should be slavery. They often used their houses as stations along the Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad helped hundreds of thousands of slaves to escape to freedom in the north. All the people who were involved in the Underground Railroad made something fantastic happen. They hid people in their houses and helped people get to the free states. The Underground Railroad was a golden path to freedom.
If you want to be absolutely certain you've looked at every page on our website, check out our site map.
This website is designed to be viewed using Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.